Planets

Image of the HL Tauri system taken by the ALMA telescope (Image ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO))

Last October a picture of the system HL Tauri captured by ESO’s ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array) telescope was published. It showed a disk of dust that is slowly coalescing and was one of the sharpest images ever made at sumbillimetric wavelengths. According to many scientists there are planets that are forming in the system but others were skeptical and that created a debate. Now a team of astrophysicists from the University of Toronto led by Daniel Tamayo brought new evidence that there really are planets forming, published in the journal “Astrophysical Journal”.

The region on the planet Mercury where the Messenger space probe crashed (Image NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)

NASA has confirmed that a few hours ago the Messenger (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging) space probe ended its mission by crashing on the surface of the planet Mercury. Messenger ran out of fuel and some maneuvers were recently programmed to prolong its life of a few more days. Eventually, even the helium normally used to pressurize the propellant was released in a jet that gave the probe one last push. It was a very successful mission that allowed us to discover many things about Mercury.

The sky around the star 51 Pegasi (Image ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2)

A team of astronomers used the HARPS (High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher) instrument at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile to obtain for the first time a direct detection of the spectrum of visible light from an exoplanet. It’s 51 Pegasi b, already well known by astronomers because it was the first exoplanet discovered among those orbiting a star on the main sequence.

The search for life beyond our solar system requires unprecedented cooperation across scientific disciplines. NASA's NExSS collaboration includes those who study Earth as a life-bearing planet (lower right), those researching the diversity of solar system planets (left), and those on the new frontier, discovering worlds orbiting other stars in the galaxy (upper right) (Image NASA)

NASA has announced the creation of the NExSS (Nexus for Exoplanet System Science), coalition, an initiative dedicated to the search for life on planets outside the solar system. It puts together different disciplines because this research goes beyond just astronomy: for example, it’s of interest to planetary and climate science researchers.

Images of the huge storm on Saturn taken by the Cassini space probe (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

In late 2010, NASA’s space probe Cassini started observing a huge storm on Saturn lasting for several months. In recent days, an article was published on the journal “Nature Geoscience” that provides an explanation for this phenomenon that had been observed a number of times in the last 140 years but had remained mysterious. According to a team led by Cheng Li of CalTech, Pasadena, the presence of water is the key to its origin.